Wikis and Research

July 9th, 2008

Recently, I used a wiki to work on a group project for class. It worked out really well, all of our thoughts and ideas were together in one place, and it was easy to accomplish a group task over a holiday weekend with no meetings!

So it got me to thinking… what if I created a wiki for my dissertation? I could compile my literature, my research questions, my methodology, all on one wiki, that way my advisers could take a look and comment and watch my progress as I went along. So that is my next brave endeavor into the world of technology- my wiki-tation? disser-wiki? wiki-diss?  Well, the name certainly needs work, but creating the wiki should be easy enough!

FYI: anyone with W&M id can sign up for a wikispace at!

Creating a Research Question

July 9th, 2008

Part of the Comprehensive Exam/Dissertation process involves completing paperwork, and yesterday I met with one of my advisers to sign off on forms. While there we talked about my dissertation topic. I talked about what I wanted to do… look at the effect of honors housing on honors students in terms of their gpa (academic achievement), academic self-concept, and goals for graduate school. Basically, does living with other people in the same kind of challenging program have an affect on honors students.

So then she said, what is your research question?

So then the phrasing fun began.  It can be difficult to phrase a research question… First of all, it should not be a yes or no question. Also, the way a research question is phrased can describe what kind of study it is, for example if a question said “what is the relationship”, you may be doing a correlational study.

So, at the moment, my research question is phrased something like this:

What is the effect of the residential component of an honors program on honors students academic achievement, academic self-concept and academic goals?

On the Reading Process

June 18th, 2008

Everyone reads in different ways. Whether cuddled up on a couch, sitting at a table, or relaxing in a hammock, each reader has a process. Now, if I’m reading a novel, I love nothing better than sitting in my hammock chair. (Yes, I really have a hammock chair! It’s in my office at home.) 

But for reading research, I have an entirely different process. I sit with the paper in front of me (I am, unfortunately, old enough to not be able to read on the computer, I have to have a hard copy), highlighter and pencil nearby, and my computer above the paper. And while I read, I highlight and sometimes write notes in the margins. Then when I get to something that I think is important for my paper, I take notes on the computer. Sometimes I quote the work directly, sometimes I paraphrase my notes as I go along. I make endless bullet points with the citation after each one. After a few articles I take a step back and look at what I’ve been noting. Then I start to organize the research in sections, and copy and paste my heart out. And then I keep on reading! By the end I have sectioned notes that are in almost an outline format. Then, I’m ready to write!

So, now, on with the reading!

On Choosing a Dissertation Topic

June 17th, 2008

I am in my final set of classes before taking my comprehensive exams… my dissertation is looming in front of me, closer than ever before. I have gone through many potential topics in my mind. I even started a document on my computer that anytime I had an idea, I would add to the document so that I wouldn’t forget the great Aha! moment.

Here is an (abridged) list:

Survey college education profs to determine presence of gifted education coursework and curricula within other courses; include request for syllabi 

Perceptions of (collegiate) Giftedness among college professors at selective Virginia colleges 

Survey beginning teachers/college seniors about knowledge of gifted pedagogy from college coursework 

Comparative analysis of honors programs at selective public (or just selective) universities (could use survey data from honors directors, and triangulate with document review of handbooks for honors programs) 

Compare data from mandate and non mandate states in terms of gifted education programming/services

 Gifted coursework/studies in alternate routes to certification programs Professors knowledge of gifted education and subsequent treatment of students College faculty’s perceptions of giftedness 

Montessori schools and giftedness: is there a link?  What about creativity?

 Effect of honors housing on student achievement- tie to environmental press and social comparison theory; use research from grouping as justification for research 

Eminent individuals: were they in honors programs?  What was the effect of the honors program? 

Overexcitabilities in honors students: pull apart by race, gender, college major, career aspirations, etc 

Identity formation in honors students: do they follow the same theories as colleges students?

At this point, my most likely topic is on honors housing (the italicized topic). Lately my Ahas! have had more to do with the theories that I can use for a lit review on that topic (and titles- how I love catchy titles!), so I think I’ve really landed on what I’d like to do.

Of course, that could all still change…

On Writing a Research Paper

June 17th, 2008

Assignment: Using a creativity strategy, analyze a problem in education and create a plan of action that will make headway with the problem.

I started this assignment with a topic in mind- undergraduate research. But I couldn’t come up with a “problem”- perhaps because I didn’t really know enough about the topic. So I started preparing for a topic that I knew a lot about, motivation in gifted students. The next day in class, we had to present our topics to the class for discussion. About a third of the way through the presentations, my mind starting whirring. I started to brainstorm about what I saw as possible problems in undergraduate research- funding, faculty support, student support, a baseline of skills needed- I thought and thought (while still paying attention to the presentations, of course) and by the time it was my turn, I was begging forgiveness, preparing to present on a topic that I had created in the last fifteen minutes or so.

So now, here I am. Fascinating topic fresh in hand, but I still know nothing about it. So, my research begins.

But how do you research research? Using the databases on the Swem website I waded through hit after hit that had both “undergraduate” and “research” as key words. (There were, well, quite a few.) Until finally I came upon one great article. And the great article had a nice literature review at the beginning. One look at the References section and I was truly off and running! One article led to another; opinion pieces, empircal research, I have it all. My ink cartridge has been newly replaced, and I am ready to go.

Now, on to the reading…